A Broomfield Nepalese family has filed a civil rights lawsuit against Westminster police after an officer killed a 27-year-old unarmed man amid a mental health crisis last year.
Lawyers representing the family say Westminster police officer Steven Bare used excessive force and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when he shot Birendra Thakuri in the chest and killed him after a scuffle.
“Officer Bare had many other options available to him instead of shooting Birendra, including using the officer’s pepper spray or his taser,” Gail Johnson, a lawyer for the Thakuri family said in a statement. “Once Officer Bare started interacting with Birendra, it became clear to him that Birendra was in the midst of a mental health crisis.”
Neither Thakuri nor his brother, who was with him off of Federal Boulevard and 114th Avenue, was armed.
Police were called on reports of the two fighting. Thakuri, who had bipolar disorder, was in the middle of a crisis and upset. He threatened to run out onto Federal into ongoing traffic and his brother was trying to stop him, according to court documents.
When Westminster Officer Bare got there, Thakuri charged him a couple of times, flailing his arms and screaming in Nepalese, which Bare did not understand. Bare first struck Thakuri with a flashlight and he retreated but came at Bare again, screaming with his fist balled up, according to investigation documents at the Adams County District Attorney’s office. When Thakuri got within 10 feet of Bare, the officer shot him in the chest.
“Officer Bare said that he did not have time to use less lethal force. He did not feel like he had time to reach for his Taser or pepper spray,” Adams County District Attorney Dave Young wrote in a determination letter written in January that found Bare did not do anything wrong. “Officer Bare believed that there was nothing else he could do to stop the threat that these two males posed to his safety.”
Lawyers say Bare should have waited for backup. The shooting was not captured on video because Westminster officers are not required to wear body cameras, like most other law enforcement agencies in Colorado.
“Gun violence by police officers should be a last resort,” Johnson said in a statement. “There was no reason this unarmed young man had to die that day.”
Westminster police spokesman Luis Lopez said the department “takes all officer involved shootings extremely seriously as we value all of life.”
Lopez declined to talk about the pending litigation.